Outrage Among Guyanese at The New York Times

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The below letter was sent to The New York Times on July 26th in response to their article “The $20 Billion Question for Guyana” published on page BU1 on July 22nd.

The article has triggered disgust among readers across the world, including many Guyanese, in conversations and on social media under the hashtag #LifeInTheWateryWilderness, using one of the controversial lines from the article. Regrettably, The New York Times, like many large corporations, has been apathetic to any feedback including to this letter.

Delivered to The New York Times via letters@nytimes.com (July 26, 2018)

To the Editor:
Understanding the visible distinction between the largely uninhabited Amazon jungle in Guyana with established population centers along the coast is essential. Unfortunately, this article lacks this distinction, and, in its absence, it reads as if Columbus was reporting back on his “discoveries” in the new world. It is offensive.

A primitive, other-worldliness is presented from the beginning, “There are a few dirt roads between villages that sit on stilts along rivers snaking through the rain forest”. This troubling lens flows effortlessly like the oil it describes, polluting this developing country. To describe the real tensions between Indo and Afro-Guyanese communities as “a plague of ethnic tribal politics” is racist. In the absence of facts, it is painful to read gross generalizations like “A vast majority of college-educated youths emigrate to the United States or Canada, while those who stay behind experience high rates of HIV infection, crime and suicide”.

Remarkably, border disputes of the past that prevented oil exploration, a $20M signing bonuses from ExxonMobile that went missing under this government, and the crisis of worker displacement from traditional industries like sugar, rice and mining is omitted. This is necessary to truly understand where Guyana was, where it is and the distance it needs to go to effectively manage its oil resources.

Oil has indeed provided a second chance for prosperity, after Guyana’s independence, and this is why it is now more important to hold powerful bodies accountable, including The Times.

Richard S. David
Democratic District Leader-elect
NYS Assembly District 31

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The views expressed aboveare solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the THE WEST INDIAN.

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